Gore-Tex® is a synthetic material that is durable water and wind proof, and maintains breath-ability.
Nylon ( another man-made material ) has the advantages of being waterproof, lightweight and durable. Unfortunately due to it’s nature it does not let vapour pass through it. So nylon waterproofed clothing traps sweat inside, this can make the clothing uncomfortable to wear, particularly in more strenuous activities.
Gore-Tex® takes the advantages of nylon and removes the disadvantage by allowing for breath-ability, whilst still keeping rain drops out it allows sweat ( water vapour ) to pass through it. This makes the material highly desirable for all kinds of outdoor sporting apparel.
The simplest forms of waterproof clothing fabric is a two layer sandwich. The outer layer will typically be polyester or nylon, and provides the strength for the material. The inner layer is polyurethane, and this provides the water resistance, however it is at the cost of breath-ability.
Gore-Tex® fabric sandwiches together layers of nylon, a polymer called polytetrafluoroethene ( or PTFE for short ) and polyurethane. The PTFE is punctured with millions of tiny holes ( or pores ) around nine billion per square inch! The pores are too small for water droplets to get through, but they are large enough for water molecules ( or sweat – in the case of clothing ) to pass through. The nylon is used to add durability to the fabric layers, without which the layers of material would be too fragile. The diagram below illustrates the kind of structure composite of materials used in Gore-Tex® fabrics.
Gore-Tex® was co-invented by Wilbert L. Gore and his son, Robert W. Gore. The invention was reportedly an accident, whilst heating and stretching rods of PTFE, he discovered that if the heat was applied as a sudden amount instead of a slow process the PTFE unexpectedly stretched about 800%, forming the micro-porous structure that is so useful for giving garments breath-ability.
In order to use Gore-Tex® within their products, brands like The North Face Marmot and Patagonia partner with Gore-Tex® and to hold the Gore-Tex® symbol the products are put through rigorous testing procedures. Testing for abrasion, waterproof breath-ability, wash resistance and susceptibility to chemicals. With the Gore-Tex® name comes a guarantee of satisfaction, promising refunds if consumers are not completely satisfied.
There are 3 categories of Gore-Tex® fabrics, available in both three layer ( 3L ) and two layer ( 2L ) versions, the 3L version has a mesh lining bonded to the other layers and the 2L uses a separate, sewn in fabric lining:
- Gore-Tex® Pro is designed for protection and durability in the harshest conditions.
- Gore-Tex® Active is ideal for fast light outdoor activities.
- Gore-Tex® is for all-round durable protection.